by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
It has been five years now since America got the news, or was supposed to: Henceforth our children would enjoy a revolutionary new approach to learning in the public schools, in the form of national educational standards. They’re called the Common Core State Standards, or Common Core for short—or if you’re in a particular hurry, CCSS. Why national standards should bear the official title “State Standards” is one of the many peculiarities that make Common Core interesting to think about. Anyway, as we enter the sixth year of this revolutionary phase in our country’s history, it’s not clear how many Americans know they are about to reap its benefits. Only 39 percent of us have heard of Common Core, according to a poll this spring, and those who have heard of it aren’t crazy about it. In fact, the more knowledgeable people are, the less likely they are to think the whole thing is a good idea.
Too late! Forty-five states agreed to accept the Common Core standards immediately after they were introduced—in one case, even before they were introduced. A few states have since reneged, in response to protests from a small but passionate group of conservative parents ranged across the heartland, as well as some local unions and a handful of left-leaning educationists. But for a large majority of schools Common Core is here to stay, a done deal already—the newest of the new regimes, latest in a long line of revolutionary approaches designed to improve our public schools.
The indifference most Americans are showing to Common Core is likely a symptom of reform fatigue. Reform of an “unacceptable status quo” in public education has been going on so long that many of us can’t recall what the pre-reform status quo was, or why it was unacceptable. …
… For nearly 40 years, it’s pretty much been all reform, all the time for the nation’s public school students, teachers, and parents. Many of the children whose schools were supposed to be revolutionized by America 2000 in 1990 now have the chance to see their own children’s education revolutionized by Common Core. Nothing can stop the impulse to reform our nation’s public schools. For professional policymakers, it is the itch they just can’t scratch.